So, you are driving on the highway, going somewhere. Who can remember where?
You are in a hurry. You are almost always in a hurry. It’s a beautiful day. The traffic gets heavier and then slower. Now it’s bumper to bumper.
Your curiosity as to what’s going on turns to impatience. Come on. Come on. You tap at the steering wheel, crane your neck to try to see what the hold up is.
Then you see the emergency lights flashing, the road flares smoking, the police cars… As you are being funneled into the slow lane you look and see two demolished cars and maybe you see their passengers but you quickly look away – quickly — you don’t want to have anything to do with this nightmare — it is all too horrid. You don’t want to speculate for an instant that it could have been you in that car — you with the mortal wound — you or someone you love on life’s cusp. So, you don’t look, you don’t have the breath for prayer, you just want to get out of there, get away, think about it — talk about it later on — later on.
How is this accident different from all of the hurricanes, earth quakes, hate crimes, wars, floods, ethnic extermination, political circuses, rampant drug addiction …. that are greeting us every day, at every turn in the road? They are no different except that instead of being confronted with one car accident we are being confronted with multiple “accidents” every day, every time we listen to the news or read the paper.
Our reaction is the same: What do we do? How do we respond? Do we look then look away for fear for ourselves? Afraid that we might be injured too? Are we quick to sooth ourselves by saying: It wasn’t my car, it wasn’t my house, it’s not happening in my town or to my family. No one I know was hurt or injured.” But, then when we stop defending ourselves — protecting ourselves — we realize that it did happen, it is happening in our “house” to our “family.” It is all our wound.
Like it our not we are one family of man. To know this is to feel and be responsible, to have to live with the overwhelming injustices, needs, of others, to find some way of addressing the accident you just drove by or the images flashing across your TV screen.
I have a suggestion to diminish of feelings of helplessness and ineffectualness. Take up, take on one of Sister Teresa’s guiding principals: “Do small things with great love.” This will only sound like whistling in the wind, or something spouted on a talk show or a slogan blazing on a T-shirt if not enlivened, if not lived, if not taken on as a daily practice to make meaning of life both yours and others. Whatever your faith, whatever your spiritual leaning, how you love in the day will impact not only your life but all of life. Do small things with great love. This is within our reach, within our capability. Doing this will stem our fear, help us to not be afraid to look outward or inward and in the looking, in that loving, enable us to have the courage to lift up a world that is in tears.